From Homeless to High School Graduate

Sia Kanjama turned 18 on New Years Day and the next day, her parents asked her to leave home. Homeless, Sia turned to friends and learned about NCO Youth and Family Services’ Transitional Housing Program for young adults. Within weeks the Naperville North senior had somewhere to stay while she worked on achieving a personal goal: earning her high school diploma.

“Education is important in every part of the world, so I wanted to continue, graduate, when I graduate I want to go to college,” said Kanjama.

When we first met up with Sia, she had been living at NCO for almost two months, but she’s considered homeless by state standards.

Many young adults spend their time in college preparing for adulthood, for Sia that time is now.

“I’m starting to realize I’m an adult, I’m on my own, and I have to deal with pretty much everything on my own,” she said.

But thanks to NCO Youth and Family Service’s transitional housing program, Sia isn’t completely alone. The program provides housing for 18-24 year olds who are homeless. Females live in an apartment complex that houses up to 10 young women, but no woman can stay longer than two years.

“We work on a lot of different domains, overseeing her educational goals, her employment goals,” said Val Maty, Sia’s Case Manager. “We look at her permanent housing, where she’s going to go, that’s an ongoing conversation, from when she comes in to where she’s going to go after she leaves us.”

NCO staff wanted to make sure Sia lived as normal a life as possible for a homeless high school senior, and that included making sure she attended her senior prom.

“My hopes for Sia are that she graduates from high school…
that she will have a great time at prom…and I think the sky is the limit, so my hope for her is that she will achieve things that she doesn’t even think are possible,” added Maty.

This week Sia crossed the stage at Naperville North and received her high school diploma. With one goal accomplished, Sia now looks towards her next goal with excitement and anxiety.

“It’s really a little bit scary, to go out there by yourself while you are still in high school and starting a new school, like going to college,” said Kanjama.

Graduation night marked Sia’s fourth month living at NCO, and her new friends were at the ceremony giving her all their support as she reached this milestone in her life.

Sia plans to attend the College of DuPage this fall. She hopes to pursue a career in child care or cosmetology.

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